This is a good wedding day picture

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Brent Westra

Jonathan Hagberg and Jennifer Techau got engaged on April 1, 2017. She remembers that day not just fondly, but well.

They'd spent the day on Lake Minnetonka, where it was "65 degrees and sunny," Jennifer reports. "Just the picture perfect day."

So, when scheduling a wedding, one would be led to think a date two weeks after such weather perfection would be safe from a serious disruption. In April 2018, in Minnesota, one would be very wrong.

Jennifer and Jonathan, who live in Rochester, and met more than a decade ago through their jobs in marketing for Mayo Clinic, set their date for Saturday, April 14. The wedding would be held in West St. Paul, with a reception to be held in Stillwater. Early last week, as the date approached, ominous weather reports piled up like snowflakes.

"I was checking weather apps up to three days prior -- knowing they could be inaccurate -- and they were all hovering around the same thing, seven to 10 inches of snow, and winds gusting," Jonathan says. "We knew it was going to be an interesting, cold day."

Jennifer, who has more than a decade of experience in professional event planning, had her own words to describe the lead-up to the wedding day. "Interesting" was not one of them.

"I was not optimistic," she says. "I'm very much a planner, and I had everything completely planned. On Monday, I was very emotional, lots of tears. I was thinking about snow emergencies, and where are people going to park, and how are people going to get there, people are flying in from out of town. It was just a lot of emotion, of, 'How are we going to deal with this?'"

Within a couple days, the couple had accepted their fate of getting married in a snowstorm. To their delight, so did their guests, who turned out in full force to see the couple wed at Saint James Lutheran Church in West St. Paul, regardless of the snowstorm.

"Our guests risked their lives to be there with us," Jennifer says. "That was amazing. Driving through blizzards -- they wouldn't miss our wedding for the world."

Fears that the couple's outdoor wedding-day photos might be spoiled by snowfall of an inch an hour were set aside, and everyone braved a bit of cold to get the shots. (At one point, bride and groom, still outfitted in gown and tuxedo, donned a pair of ski goggles.)

Reports Jonathan: "It turned out we had the best wedding photography ever: bridesmaids in strapless gowns, and groomsmen completely covered in snow."

Vows spoken and agreed to, all that was left was the reception. This took some doing, as some guests rendezvoused at a hotel in Woodbury (a distance of about a dozen miles from the church) before moving along to the reception site in Stillwater (another 15 miles). The wedding party made the arduous journey without incident.

As they learned later, a bus-full of their guests almost didn't even get started.

Brent Westra, a friend of the couple, was among those set to take the Woodbury-to-Stillwater shuttle bus, which waited in the hotel parking lot for some time, more snow accumulating around the tires each minute.

When the passengers were loaded, and it came time to leave, the bus ... couldn't. The driver got off, shovel in hand, in an attempt to clear space for the tires. Subsequent attempts to drive forward or reverse over the next 20 minutes went literally nowhere.

At last, someone said, "Everybody's gotta get out and push."

And just like that, 10 of them stood up, and did. One was Westra, who notes that after snapping a quick photo, he joined the effort to get the tires moving. Later, when she saw the photo, Jennifer recognized some of her uncles working to free the vehicle.

Westra says wedding guests had already been pushing cars into and out of the hotel parking lot, so they were in pretty good practice. Besides, most of them live here, and know the drill.

"Most Minnesotans know you have to get it rocking, keep it rocking, and keep it moving until you get out," he says.

As far as Westra saw, none of the volunteer pushers expressed the least concern about their nice clothes.

The push-out lasted all of a couple minutes, Westra reports, after which the bus had "smooth sailing" all the way to Stillwater; he credits the bus driver for keeping them en route, while passing other cars that had slid into the ditch.

"Everybody on the bus was pretty excited after we pushed out," Westra says. "We were celebrating getting on. It was kind of an adventure of a day. We didn’t want to miss the reception."

They didn't, and Jonathan argues that the bus-full had earned the free drinks they received. Because round trips took buses so long, the night ended with a long dance party in the event center lobby, which Jennifer says was "so much fun," adding: "We had a wedding no one will ever forget. That's the best part."

Says Jonathan: "It could've been 15 people there. It could've been just, our wedding party only. The 100-plus people that did show up -- through nail-biting weather, with MSP [Airport] closing, the Mall of America closing -- they made it really special."

Previously, in This is a Good Thing:

 


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